Mt. Baker Station with former UW laundry facility in the background (Apple Maps)

Seattle Office of Housing (PDF):

Three parcels totaling 3.79 acres of land and more than 179,000 square feet, opposite the Mount Baker Link light rail station.

Transformative opportunity to develop affordable housing, ground floor early learning, and open space near high capacity transit.

The laundry facility, next to Mt. Baker Station, was one factor in the suboptimal placement of Mt. Baker station itself, as we noted in 2012.  The neighborhood went through a controversial rezoning process in 2014. 

In 2018, the UW made the contentious decision to close the facility and eliminate 100 jobs. Laundry services were awarded to a private contractor.

Last year, the legislature passed a law allowing UW to transfer the property to Seattle for affordable housing.  Also last year, as part of the MHA rezone, the site was rezoned for up to 95 feet. 

39 Replies to “Mt. Baker laundry site to become affordable housing”

  1. Any particular reason not to carve a bus loop out of the parking lot for the 8/48, replacing the current Mt. Baker Transit Center? This would allow additional affordable housing to replace today’s transit center, while also providing better connections between light rail and the 8/48 buses.

    Of course, this would be much easier to do if affordable housing directly adjacent to light rail could be built without the must-have-enough-parking-spaces-to-allow-every-resident-to-own-a-separate-car (MHEPSTAERTOAC) assumption.

    1. You’re right that the current transit center should be located. This former laundry site would be a great choice, but there are other locations that would also work better than the current site does.

      By now, the plans to do that should have been at least assessed. Mt Baker Station on Link has been open for over 10 years. To me, the fact that it hasn’t (compared to the millions of dollars in other projects Metro is pursuing including a Rainier RapidRide) suggests that it’s stuck where it is.

      1. SDOT has spent a bunch of effort on re-imagining the Rainier-MLK interchange, has moving the TC been considered during that process?

      2. Agreed, the City has taken a few cracks at re-doing the traffic pattern and pedestrian/bike infrastructure in this are. It’s currently very unsafe. and moving the transit center adjacent to the light rail station is sorely needed. I hope the city is looking at this site/area in a comprehensive way.

      3. My gripe about the accessible mt. Baker project is that it replaces a pedestrian bridge over the whole MLK/Rainier mess with not just one, but two stoplights. I consider it nearly inevitable that efforts to placate King Car will result in excessively long pedestrian wait times to cross. For example, if the lights are times to allow cars to cross both streets in one go, that means pedestrians who are unable to run a 100 meter sprint at 20 mph will have to wait a full cycle in the median, every single time. And, to avoid traffic backups on Rainier and MLK, it will, rest assured, be a very long, Mercer St.-style cycle. Plus a second cycle to cross the first half. During rush hour, crossing the street will actually take longer than waiting for the Link train.

        Whatever is done there, that bridge needs to remain. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than no bridge at all.

      4. I agree with you about the last incarnation of the Accessible Mt Baker project, asdf2. It does help pedestrian access at all! It also makes routing Route 7 harder too, forcing left turns for any bus going to or from Rainier Ave S south of the station.

        I think it should be redubbed the Less Accessible Mt Baker project when it comes to pedestrians and transit riders! Lol

  2. The announcement indicates open space will be part of the project. Please, no!! We need housing next to transit, not more open space. And the Cheasty Greenspace is literally adjacent to the site, and Mt. Baker Boulevard and school platfields are just a block away. Please encourage the city to omit unnecessary open space and focus on maximizing housing units, including building as high as zoning permits.

    1. I agree completely. I’m a huge fan of open space and parkland, but not next to a transit station. That is a really bad idea — a big waste, especially with the greenspace so close.

      1. There is plenty of green space in this area. However, there is a huge need for playground/outdoor recreation space here. With the existing apartments and daycare at Mt. Baker Lofts, the large apartment building opening across McClellan (Stazione 25), and now this new project, there will be several hundred apartments adjacent to the light rail station. it’s a high traffic area that is not anywhere near a safe play area for young kids. It wouldn’t need to be huge, but enough space for a playground, a few benches/picnic tables and a basketball court or mini soccer pitch like the one at yesler terrace would be very well used.

      2. Many buildings have a roof deck – why not a roof playground?

        Granted that would only serve building residents, but that could be a fairly large number of children.

      3. Isn’t there a school right across the street with a track and football field? Can that be opened up to the public when the school isn’t using it? That seems better than building another sports field right next door.

      4. Alright, yeah, I think a playground would be a good idea. I just don’t like the idea of yet another windswept plaza, or bunch of shrubbery. Not with a greenbelt right next door. A playground and some basketball courts would be good, though.

      5. Mt Baker Blvd is immediately nearby, has open space in the median, and provides a short pleasant walk to Mt Baker Park. Why not focus on making the median and sidewalks more interesting, and extending the decorations to the station? Then you’ll have beautiful open space without shortchanging the critical housing capacity. There are few opportunities to live within easyt walking distance of a Link station, and an emergency shortage of affordable housing, so let’s not squander the opportunities for station-adjacent housing we do have.

        Maybe if we upzoned the Beacon Hill station area to match Mt Baker or Roosevelt Stations, then we could have more open space at Mt Baker Station.

        There’s also a vast underused area within the station under the tracks that should have more active uses. I’ve always wanted a farmers’ market there. Or kiosks or something else — anything with more people.

      6. “a playground, a few benches/picnic tables and a basketball court or mini soccer pitch”

        A tennis/basketball court and children’s play area would be better than simply an empty plaza or grass with benches. The tennis/basketball court at Cal Anderson Park is well-used, with both the aforementioned sports, Saturday evening bicycle polo, and skateboard jumping on makeshift ramps. That’s the kind of thing I’d want to see in a recreational space. “Open space” connotes an empty area with grass and ornamental plants and a couple benches that are empty most of the time. That’s the last thing we need. Put those things in the periphery where they don’t force everybody to walk further past dead space. Or put bioswale-type plants in so it’s ecologically productive.

    2. I find the term “open space” to be rather vague. Is this a mere building setback? Is this more like a maintained park or a completely natural habitat? Will it have a trail through it to more directly connect the station?

      When SDOT presented their still-unfunded street reconfiguration (a meeting that I attended), a number of neighbors reported that some of the nearby open spaces, stairs and trails had become landing places for hostile homeless people. I expect this topic to get consideration as plans develop.

    3. Go ahead and build low-income housing on the open space, but a few years from now, when you read some study that low-income neighborhoods in Seattle have less green space than wealthy neighborhoods, you give up the right to be outraged at the imbalance.

      1. But it isn’t open space now, it’s a laundry facility. It’s not replacing open space with affordable housing. And there is green space right by it (as seen in the picture above and it continues along Cheast Blvd to the west). I oppose turning parks into housing as a distraction from removing zoning, but this isn’t the same thing.

      2. I was replying to Scott saying this: “The announcement indicates open space will be part of the project. Please, no!! We need housing next to transit, not more open space.” He wants any proposed open space planned on the parcel taken up by buildings. All I’m saying is, go ahead and build on the open space, but you forfeit the right to ever complain about low-income neighborhoods having less open/green space than wealthy neighborhoods.

  3. Remember seeing, a long time ago, a plan to close off Rainier Avenue completely to cars. Old allegiance, maybe, but for me, priority is Route 7 right of way. Turnbacks for the other routes, important but secondary. All open to study, discussion, and argument.

    But an even older question….since they’re never controlled by Government, why does “Private Contractor” so seldom mean “Worker-Owned-Cooperative?”

    Mark Dublin

  4. Has there been any environmental or hazmat testing on this site? Laundry facilities are known to leave heavy toxic pollutants in the land. Putting affordable housing here is certainly a laudable idea, but can we ensure the health and safety of the families who will be living there?

    1. I think there will be an environmental review, but during the announcement @ the City Council meeting they mentioned that this wasn’t a dry cleaning facility which has the more negatively impactful water issues.

  5. Move the bus station to that spot, right next to the light rail.
    Put affordable housing on the old bus station and any remaining land on the laundry site.
    Cheasty Boulevard and Green Space is right behind that area.

  6. Does this go towards UW’s quota of affordable housing as per their new master development agreement with the city? I recall some debate about whether UW needed to provide the housing on-site or off-site .

  7. Generalities like “Open Space” are a bad habit. Are we talking “Forest Preserve” or “Sahara Desert?” Same with “Maximized Housing Units” and “Building Height Zoning.”

    The 1950’s and ’60’s left our every major city with mostly-brick residence styled by “The Department of Prisons”, most of which is by now thankfully “Demolished.”

    Based on some current statements out of “Washington DC”, though, no surprise if the Capitol Hill Route 10 gets re-planned in the mid 1800’s style of French urban planner Baron Haussman. Centuries of Residential Density had resulted in a citywide network of escape routes for Protestors.

    So “Cannon-shot Boulevards” did not mean precision linear surveying. Nor was “Grapeshot” a breakfast cereal that sponsored a lot of really great radio and early-TV entertainment. But since this is 20-, rather than 1820 we should be ok.

    With some overdue repairs in our National politics, exactly as the Roosevelt Administration did with a lot of large scale art and architecture, we’re wide open for Federal programs that’ll enable skilled and talented architects and landscapers to design memorable developments combining residence with light, fresh air, and amenity.

    Now as then, many of our professional best will be quite reasonable in their wage demands.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It’s amazing that those two-lane roads (Rainier Avenue and Empire Way) were called highways.

  8. There are 43,560 square feet in one acre. Hence, 3.79 acres is about 165,092 sq ft.

    So where did the extra 14,000 sq ft come from? Or is the Seattle Housing Office just bad at math?

  9. My current vision to solve the areas pedestrian and transit issues adjacent to this site is to do these projects:

    1. A Winthrop St (Cheaty Blvd lanes on the north side) “skywalk” that runs from the hillside, past this site (entry into the site?), crosses Link at-grade just south of the current platform end (enabling a level pedestrian crossing at the platform level so riders can get to the either elevator and could cross tracks similar to other MLK pedestrian crossings except traffic wouldn’t be involved), crosses MLK and Rainier and then land next to Franklin at about the fire station. That would replace the current, awful pedestrian bridge.

    2. Move the Mt Baker Transit Center. Two possible locations seem good:

    2a. Move it to be inside a reworked inside loop at I-90 (land the loop ramp to be perpendicular to Rainier by shaving the last segment of the loop). The Judkins Park Link Station access is available at the west side of Rainier just south of this location so the transferring riders wouldn’t need to cross a street. The new ramp end could have a signal to enable a Rainier pedestrian crossing as well as a special bus-only phase for buses that leave this center. It would also free the current 90-to-Rainier N slip ramp to be demolished and the land reused. (See Figure 20 on page 30 here — https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/TransportationPlanning/JPStationAccessStudy_FINAL_2019-03-30_sm.pdf)

    … or …

    2b. Redesign Forest Street as the transit center location, and design this former laundry site plan so that Forest Street can be closed to autos (aka bus only). A driver break room / rest room could be added into the design of this project at the ground level.

    With either location, Metro route restructuring would be needed. That’s not a bad thing given the impending opening of Judkins Park Link station (projected to have way more Link boardings than Mt Baker Station does).

    1. I have suggested 2b numerous times on previous STB threads. I still think it’s the best option. Even if not closed to cars completely (to allow driveway access), simply making it one way and getting rid of the on street parking (except for bus layovers) would be sufficient.

      The key point is that the 7 and 106 would not serve such a loop. They would stay on Rainier at their current stops to avoid delaying thru riders. Only the 8, 14, and 48 would do it.

    2. 2.c — Reconnect 27th between Winthrop and Forest, but only for buses. That would be part of this deal, and would require only one lane. Then buses would turn right on Winthrop, drop off riders and lay over. They wouldn’t turn around, but they would spread out. After laying over, they would take a right on Forest, then a left on Rainier. Buses from MLK (like the 8) would have to do an additional right and left (no different than today).

      The space for laying over (essentially a transit center) is not ideal. It is teardrop shaped, but in the wrong direction. I still think it could work. 27th is essentially two lanes right now, so it would be one way, with space for a bus to park, and a bus to pass. There would be room for several buses. As asdf2 said, it would only be the buses that layover that would serve that area. The other buses would keep going.

  10. Reading the hyperlinked presentation in detail, it appears that the City of Seattle will be given the land and will have a clean slate to lay out the site as they seem fit.

    That would mean that NOW is the time to push the city to enable a relocation of the Mt Baker transit center to be immediately adjacent to the station — either on Forest St or a new diagonal bus-only transit mall just west of the stairs to the Link platform.

    It also means that if it doesn’t happen NOW, it will be much harder and costlier to do in the future.

  11. https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/04/06/the-case-for-a-rainier-avenue-streetcar/

    Thank you, Matt Johnson. One good thing about streetcars is they’re time-tolerant. Pave-It-Over and Dig-It-Up, long past-practice worldwide. All I’d change is to put the south terminal in Chinook Beach Park. And car stop right downstairs from the Mt. Baker Link platforms, dig that out too.

    Renton extension, ST-Whatever. Battery pack also means the Route 7 can just drop poles at Prentice and re-wire down Renton Avenue without a second stop if there’s nobody in the zone.

    Meantime, can anybody point me to contemporary housing that looks like what’s being proposed for Mt. Baker Transit Center? Many thanks,

    Mark Dublin

      1. Oh, I love local history and old photos. The history of Rainier Avenue is interesting. Before the lake was lowered the lake 9 feet in 1916, parts of it was a swamp. They even had small trestles so the streetcar could go over the marshy areas.

        That website, rainiervalleyhistory.org has some great, old photos. Lot’s of pics of old Rainier Valley streetcars under Archives – Topic – Streetcars

  12. And for the second time in one day, Thanks Again, Sam! That lane containing the car. Are those really boards, or just concrete poured into a wooden “mold” so when the boards were gone, the grain remained?

    But Franklin High makes a statement that whatever digital is for “Please Set In Stone!:” Build something right, and you can relax about its future use. Which you can always tell yourself truthfully has yet to be discovered.

    But if it’s made out of steel and has got steel wheels, in addition to a pole on the roof that can also be a pantograph, and third-rail contacts if needed….It’s already called a PCC Streetcar. If your bid’s not accepted, steal it.

    Mark Dublin

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